– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

10 January 2020

Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, H.E.

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa,

Director General of IRENA, Mr. Francesco La Camera,

Excellences,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking the Director General of IRENA for inviting me to join you today.

I am most grateful for the opportunity to meet representatives and delegates from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) who are bringing the conversation on climate action to the forefront.

Despite our collective disappointment with the international community’s inability to reach consensus on vital issues during the last Climate Change Conference (COP 25), we are here to chart a way forward, with respect to a related matter: renewable energy.

Inaction is not an option. Inaction will put at risk all life on earth as we know it.

Inaction will only lead to more severe and extreme weather events, land degradation and deforestation, loss of biodiversity, pollution and acidification of oceans, global food insecurity as well as drought and floods.

Inaction will lead to continued sea level rise, risking the displacement of 280 million people from coastal areas and islands by 2050.

Climate change is the single greatest security and development threat facing SIDS, despite this being a crisis not of their making.

SIDS are bearing the climate crisis’ most immediate and most severe consequences, including greater recurrence of devastating natural disasters that erase development gains and create additional debt burdens.

Sea level rise puts SIDS’ populations and infrastructure at risk, and eats away at territory, with some states at risk of being partially or fully submerged in the not too distant future.

The international community must exert all efforts to ensure that SIDS’ thousands years long civilizations are not only safeguarded but thrive in the future.

Climate change is indifferent to borders, and is thus not amenable to ‘national’ solutions. We are all in this together.

We are duty-bound to ensure that no one is left behind, and that we reach the farthest left behind first. Commitments to assist in funding the SDGs, including climate action, have been reiterated. Sadly, action has lagged far behind. We need to reverse this before it is too late for our SIDS brothers and sisters, and indeed for us all.

Despite all the challenges, SIDS are still leading the way in implementing their ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.

It is the international community that is now required to do more to support and match their efforts, including by facilitating concessionary financing for SIDS’ adaptation and mitigation initiatives.

IRENA’s work, as one of the custodians of ‘SDG 7: Sustainable Energy for All’, is vital for its implementation and a just transition to the new green economy globally.

IRENA plays a vital role in supporting SIDS, via facilitating partnerships to stimulate and build capacity for cost-effective renewable energy options and technology, including mobilizing resources and facilitating investments through the ‘SIDS Lighthouses’ initiative.

In light of such support, and SIDS’ greater exposure to natural disasters, we need to incorporate Disaster Risk Reduction Strategies to protect SIDS’ populations, economies and renewable energy infrastructure.

We are duty-bound to ensure that no one is left behind, and that we reach the farthest left behind first. Commitments to assist in funding the SDGs, including climate action, have been reiterated. Sadly, action has lagged far behind. We need to reverse this before it is too late for our SIDS brothers and sisters, and indeed for us all

Tijjani Muhammad Bande

President of the UN General Assembly

As the United Nations marks its Seventy-fifth anniversary this year, we must recommit to its core values, and remember who it is that we serve.

There are billions of individuals, with hopes and fears and aspirations, who depend on us and on the choices we make.

We must keep them foremost in our minds as we convene in fora like this one to formulate and review plans to eradicate poverty, address inequalities, tackle climate change, prevent conflict, sustain peace, and uphold human rights. 

Time is running out for the woman losing her livelihood to climate-induced desertification; for the child who will have to abandon her home to a rapidly-rising sea level; and for the communities that will have to build back only to be washed away again.

Time is already up for many lives lost due to heatwaves, droughts, extreme weather events and public health crises – all due to climate change.

As we approach the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN, we must strengthen our rules-based international order, and clearly recommit to effective partnerships for addressing our current challenges, including the climate emergency.

I thank you all for providing me with the platform to join your efforts to advance climate action. Although the road before us is laden with challenges, we must not waiver, or surrender to cynicism.

I wish you the best in your deliberations.